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When I was growing up in a low-ceilinged Cape style home outside of Boston, I admired the tall, sweeping Victorians clustered in the center of my town. I particularly liked those with a third floor, which promised privacy and perhaps a bit of secrecy tucked under the roof. Maybe I had read too many Edward Gorey books, but I wondered who or what was lurking behind those small windows. And I really loved those homes with the widow’s watch, a tiny cupola perched on top from which a sea captain’s wife would patiently keep an eye out for her husband. One day, I thought, I will live in such a house.
Now that I am aware of how much I hate to clean, I’m relieved that I never fulfilled that desire by purchasing such a grand domicile. And so it is all the sweeter to be able to come to the Milheim House, the mansion of my childhood fantasies, tiptoe up the carpeted top-secret back staircase, and park myself at a desk by a third-floor window. For the hours that I’m here, it’s as if the space is mine alone, even though I share a room with a few other people. And while there is no white gloved butler or aproned maid to bring me refreshments at the ring of a bell, there is a kettle for tea, a microwave and a micro fridge, and that is enough for me.
And while I am writing a draft of this post at my Lighthouse perch, I am posting it from home. Why? Because I decided that to maximize my productivity I would not go online, no matter how strong the urge. My desk time is dedicated to drafting or revising. It’s a place to get quiet, tune out the rest of the world and tune into to what I’m trying to say, something I had limited success doing while at cafés, bookstores and libraries.
At Grand Lake, Chris Ransick talked about building a bliss station and Dan Manzanares, the new Creative Curator, said that his included other writers. Until I came to Lighthouse, I imagined that I would need to have a huge, brilliantly lit and perfectly decorated space all to myself in order to get myself in the mood to create. I was wrong, and I think Virginia Woolf might be mistaken, too. You don’t really need a whole room to yourself, however it is adorned. All you need is a desk. Not necessarily a large desk. Even a shared desk will do. After all, one of the advantages of knowing that someone else is using the space is that we can’t leave anything behind. Every time I show up it is bare and clean, inviting a fresh start, unlike my much bigger desk at home, permanently colonized by my printer, notebooks, assorted papers, rubber bands and other clutter.
Thanks, Lighthouse, for making it possible for me to have a desk that is (mostly) my own, at least for a while.